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Finding Minnesota: Spring Grove Soda

SPRING GROVE, Minnesota (WCCO) -- There was a time when nearly every town in the state had a bottling company -- and many sold their own soda pop.

As Coke and Pepsi grew, most bottling companies fizzed out, but one of the oldest bottling companies in the state is still going strong.

Spring Grove may be a quiet town. But that changes when it's bottling day at Spring Grove Soda.

The process began 120 years ago, when the town's pharmacist added a soda fountain and later started bottling his own pop.

"Once they bottled it, it's not like it went all over the country. People could come in and buy a six pack of pop and take it home with them," owner Bob Hansen said.

It was the "soda of the city," and then word got out.

In the 1960s, then-owner Arnold Morken started distributing Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and began taking Spring Grove Soda along for the ride.

"He didn't realize it at the time, but he basically saved the company," Hansen said.

Hansen and his wife Dawn are the owners now. The company has changed hands over the years, but never formulas. They have 9 flavors, including their own concoction, Rhuberry, along with top sellers Strawberry and Lemon Sour.

"The blend that we started with, we never changed it. I think if we did there would be a mutiny in town," Hansen said.

One hundred percent pure cane sugar is the life blood here. They have never used and never will use high fructose corn syrup or other additives. Fifty pound bags are sent up to the mixing room and into tanks.

One mixing tank can produce 320 cases of pop.

After flavoring is added, the soda is sent down to the filler area where the bottles are cleaned, then filled, then capped, then cleaned again. Business is bubbling over, as Spring Grove Soda can now be found in 48 states. But for local customers like Sue Morken, it's home will always be here.

"We used to go to my grandma's house and we'd but it by the case. We just thought it was the biggest treat in the world," Morken said.

She's not the only one who thinks so. Red's grocery store up the street sells their fair share of six-packs.

"Twice a week. They have to come in and stock it twice a week," Pat Longmire, owner of Red's IGA, said.

They also keep their State Fair booth well-stocked. And Hansen has even taken special requests from across the country.

"You'll get a phone call from somebody. They'll say grandma or grandpa is on their last leg, they're going to be passing away and we really need you to get us some soda out here as quick as you can," Hansen said.

And they do. Because they know being home grown has everything to do with their pop's popularity.

"I don't think when Dawn or I bought the place we realized how much that meant to different people that it's still going. The people of the area really treasure Spring Grove Soda," Hansen said.

Spring Grove Soda bottles 40,000 cases a year.

Tours of the bottling company are available and you can order soda off their website.

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